Archived entries for pastry

Falling in love: Lemon-ginger-white-chocolate scones

Here’s another page for you from my personal book of paradox: for all my grousing about loathing the cold, I love the fall. I mean, I LOVE the fall. I love the way it smells (like leaves and mulch and bonfire); I love the autumn holidays (I look forward to Halloween and Thanksgiving ALL YEAR. This should surprise none of you); I even love the fact that I can no longer leave the house without a jacket or scarf.

Lemon-ginger-white chocolate scones

Autumn! That wonderful time when you can finally turn on the oven without wincing! That magic moment when your cravings start to turn from watermelon to wassail! The perfect season for a closet baker, like me! And what better way to usher in this most glorious of seasons than with something spicy, delicious, and not-too-sweet? Something like…scones?

the batter

Yes, my friends. Scones. My great challenge. You see, I love scones. I love them, but I am so flippin’ persnickety that it’s sometimes hard for me to enjoy them. I cannot abide them if they are: too sweet, too crumbly, not crumbly enough, too bland, too dry, too…you get the picture. As such, it’s long been a mission of mine to create the perfect scone, one that is sweet (but not too sweet), slightly crumbly (but not too much), and full of personality. It’s been a long pursuit, a seemingly endless quest.

Until now. Oh you see, dear readers, I think I’ve done it. And it’s DELICIOUS. Spicy, sweet, and structurally sound, these scones are the ultimate breakfast pastry–everybody loves them (including: people who don’t like lemon, people who dislike ginger, people who don’t trust white chocolate, my new colleagues whom I desperately wished to impress), and nobody ever needs to know how easy it really is.

Really and truly. Give them a try. You will not regret it (unless you burn the living hell out of your hand, as I did, but I’m trusting you not to be so stupid).

Continue reading…

The Old Fashioned Way: Nicole Rees’s Simple Cream Scones

Living in a 450 square-foot apartment is tricky if you love to cook and bake. Wall shelves help, as does a freestanding counter island. Baking pans are stacked in unnatural positions and wedged in tiny cabinets, and we have a bread board hanging on a nail on the wall. Luckily, we did manage to find an apartment with a dishwasher—though it’s insalled directly under the sink, rendering it impossible to rinse dishes and put them into the dishwasher with any sort of grace. Needless to say, we don’t have lots of big kitchen appliances.

Every time I read a cooking magazine or pick up a new cookbook, I am reminded of my longing for a food processor and (sigh) a Kitchenaid mixer. So many recipes call for these tools without explaining any alternatives. That’s why I was so excited to receive a copy of Baking Unplugged from the kind folks at Wiley publishing.

In Baking Unplugged, Nicole Rees provides recipes for old-fashioned treats that don’t call for any fancy equipment. With a whisk and a spoon (and a few other low-tech tools you probably already own), she makes breakfast treats and old-fashioned desserts to satisfy a sweet tooth. The yeasted cinnamon rolls sound amazing, as do the lemon squares with grated hazelnuts in the dough. (That one is very high on my to-make list.) Her directions are simple and clear, though I do wish there were pictures of the finished dishes. A long introduction explains baking down to the simplest techniques and ingredients: she wants to impart all the knowledge of old-fashioned baking the way your great-grandmother might have done.


Many of Rees’s techniques and tricks for baking by hand make perfect sense, and I wish more cookbook and magazine writers would follow her lead and at least mention how a dish might be made without a mixer. Besides, it is kind of satisfying to put a dough together the old fashioned way. However, I’m unlikely to follow her all the way down this road. Whipping cream with a cold whisk may be possible, but I’m not that eager to try when a small electric hand mixer can do the job in a fraction of the time. (And without the arm cramp.)

I had never made scones before attempting the recipe in Baking Unplugged, and I was amazed at how quickly they came together. You could easily bake these in the morning before friends came over for tea or brunch. (Though they can also be frozen and rewarmed with decent results.) Straight out of the oven, they are trancendental. They’re simple, tender, and flaky, with none of the off, stale flavors you find in coffeeshop scones (plus, a fraction of the cost!)

I used local cream from the farmer’s market for this recipe, which I highly recommend. Because the scones have more cream than butter, and no other flavorings to distract you, the taste is one of farm-fresh dairy. They’re not greasy at all. They were a touch too sugary for my liking—perhaps this is what the author means by “retro” baking. I’ll scale down the sugar a tiny bit when I make them again (and watch the sugar in other recipes in the book.) I just may not have quite the same intense sweet tooth as Nicole Rees. But I’m glad her sweet tooth guided her toward writing this book.

Continue reading…

PiePiePiePie, Part 1: 40-proof pumpkin pie.

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This one tends to go pretty smoothly (knock on wood). A few field notes:

1. I don’t measure my spices in this thing. I used to smoke, so I run on the assumption that everyone who will be eating this pie suffers from a similarly depressed state of taste–thus, spices are hiiiiiiigh.

2. The liquor used is entirely at your discretion–I have, in times past, used bourbon, frangelico, butterscotch schnapps, and rum. The latter is really my favorite, as it adds a certain piratical bent to my humble pastry–and anything that makes me say “Arrrr!” is a good thing.

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40-proof pumpkin pie

1/2 batch butter pie crust (enough for an open-top pie)

1×15-oz can pumpkin puree
1 c heavy cream
1/2 c liquor of your choice (this year, it’s rum)
3/4 c sugar
1/2 tsp salt
cinnamon
ginger
cloves
2 large eggs

  1. In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs.
  2. Add the pumpkin
  3. Add the cream and liquor
  4. Add the sugar
  5. Add the spices (to taste) and salt
  6. Mix everything thoroughly, then pour into your prepared pie crust.
  7. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes; then, reduce heat to 350 degrees, and cook for a further 40-50 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on rack for min of two hours. Refrigerate till serving.

Delicious! Tradition! Arrrr!

Step 1: Pie crusts.

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7:50: Pumpkin and pecan pie dough in the fridge; graham cracker crusts in the pans! Go Team Efficient!
7:46:
“There’s something about the smell of butter.” –Shiv

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“Yeah, especially high-fat European butter.” –Biscuit
7:44 “Hear that? You just HEARD pie happen.”

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7:32: Food processor rules. I cannot do math.

7:04: We begin the important underpinnings of our sweet and delightful treats: the crusts. Biscuit’s on your pate brisee, I’m pulverizing graham crackers. I get to play with Biscuit’s 10-cup food processor; I fully expect to be unseated by its RAW POWER.

Graham Cracker Crust

10 Graham crackers
1 1/4c pecans
1/4c sugar
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

  1. Pulverize the first three ingredients in your food processor until you have fine crumbs
  2. Mix the butter in until it becomes slightly sticky.
  3. Press into desired pans, lightly buttered

Butter Pie Crust Dough

For a double-crust pie, double the ingredients, divide the dough in half, and form two disks.

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes; use a higher fat content European-style butter like Plugra for wildly-enhanced flakiness
3 tablespoons (or more) ice water

Blend flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add butter and cut in, using on/off turns, until coarse meal forms. Add 3 tablespoons water. Using on/off turns, blend just until moist clumps form, adding more water by 1/2 tablespoonfuls if dough is dry. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic; refrigerate 1 hour. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled. Soften slightly at room temperature before rolling.)

Makes one 9-inch crust.

Apologies for our terseness, but we’ve got some shit to do. I’m sure you understand. ;)

Game On!

OK. It’s Thanksgiving Eve Eve. 46 Hours to the main event. Which means it’s time to cook!
On the agenda tonight:

Bourbon Pecan pie

Pumpkin pie
Mint Julep Tart (this one’s an original, so bear with us)
Bailey’s white chocolate cheesecake.
Gratin assembly (Artichoke prosciutto and Cauliflower cheese)
Grating of ALL THE CHEESE IN THE WORLD.
It’s 6:54 pm. Liveblogging begins now. Say a prayer for our souls and sanity.


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